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Father and Son

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  845 ratings  ·  101 reviews
"This book is the record of a struggle between two temperaments, two consciences, and almost two epochs. It ended, as was inevitable, in disruption. Of the two being here described, one was born to fly backward, the other could not help being carried forward..." Thus begins this remarkable chronicle of the division between generations. Goose was born in 1849 into a deeply ...more
Paperback, Oxford World’s Classics, 304 pages
Published November 18th 2004 by Oxford University Press (first published 1907)
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I was recommended to read this along with The Way of All Flesh by a history teacher back at school(view spoiler), both are intrinsically Victorian books, with family and the Patriarch in the centre by the right hand side ...more
Aug 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was right up my alley in that my upbringing paralleled the author's - in spite of being over a century later. Like him, I was brought up in the Plymouth Brethren which, in 1960s-70s New Zealand, as in 1850s-60s England, meant a fixation on literalism, a consequent dryness and lack of imagination, and an almost disdainful rejection of "the world," which to a kid in particular was a blanket term for "everything fun." Seeing this aspect of my childhood before me in a form as dispassionate ...more
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another book I discovered through listening to the wonderful Backlisted podcast. Edmund Gosse (21 September 1849 – 16 May 1928) was an English poet, author and critic. He was strictly brought up in a small Protestant sect, the Plymouth Brethren, but broke away sharply from that faith.

Father and Son is his account of his childhood and his gradual questioning of the fundamentalist religion of his parents. All of which might make this book sound like a misery memoir, and yet nothing could be furth
(4.5) I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to get to this splendid evocation of 1850s–60s family life in an extreme religious sect. I’d known about Edmund Gosse’s Father and Son (1907) for ages, and even owned a copy. Two of its early incidents – the son’s anticlimactic birth announcement in the father’s diary, and the throwing out of a forbidden Christmas pudding – were famously appropriated by Peter Carey for creating Oscar’s backstory in his Booker Prize-winning novel Oscar and Lucinda (198 ...more
Michael Perkins
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
While literary eggheads like to debate whether the writer, the son in the title, Edmund, is being fair to his father, Philip, or not, the reality is that, for good or ill, our parents have a profound effect on us. It lasts a lifetime, even if we are not always conscious of it.

This is the son’s account, during the Victorian Era, of his parents and the life he had with his father after his mother died. He makes it clear he is not trying to write a biography. These are his impressions and memories,
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
An account of Edmund Gosse’s journey from childhood to adulthood and his struggle with his conscience being brought up by his father Philip a Plymouth Brethren. It is a chronicle of religious fanaticism in the Victorian era in the 1860s.

The death of his mother when he was a child created a vacuum and his father became more fanatical in indoctrination of his son into his religious beliefs. The strange thing I found was his fathers his occupation as a marine zoologist and his struggle to reject D
Scott Harris
Nov 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
And he said we must judge not, lest we ourselves bejudged. I had just enough tact to let that pass, but I was quite aware that our whole system was one of judging, and that we had no intention whatever of being judged ourselves. Yet even at the age of eleven one sees that on certain occasions to press home the truth is not convenient.

The dripping sarcasm of the line above is an apt characterization of this delightful memoir of the relationship between poet Edmund Gosse and his father Philip. Alt
Oct 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books about intellectual freedom that I have ever read. Gosse manages to make his father a deeply sympathetic and tragically sad character (and himself a real, selfish, immature boy) while clearly showing how oppressive and ridiculous puritanism can be. When young Edmund discovers Dickens and Shakespeare it's like coming up for air after deep submersion. ...more
John Anthony
Edited by Peter Abbs

Gosse's Life and Works and Chronology




Select Bibliography

Published 1907

Father = Philip Gosse, Marine Zoologist and Plymouth Brother. If he was living today we'd probably label him a Christian Fundamentalist (and even a child abuser). Edmund Gosse, an only child, was brought up in an erstwhile loving home whilst required to wear a religious straitjacket and undergo constant 'spiritual' interrogation. That he remained sane, managed to “escape” and
Sep 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Victoria Lie
I don't know if I liked this book so much because it is good or simply because its theme is of such importance to me. Edmund Gosse writes about his upbringing in a deeply religious home, and the consequences it has for the relationship he has with his father. It is a powerful and sad exploration of a desolate childhood, limited by unbearable constraints and expectations in the name of the Holy.

It is impossible for me to talk about this book without trailing off with my own thoughts on faith and
Dr. Carl Ludwig Dorsch
Mar 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lives

Published anonymously in 1907, when Gosse was 58, "Father and Son" recounts his childhood among the Plymouth Brethren, centering largely, after his mother's early death, on his relation with pere Philip Henry Gosse, English naturalist and author of "Omphalos: an Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot," in which is formulated what has come to be known as the 'omphalos hypothesis,' reconciling the fossil record to revelation by supposing it too to having been created ex nihilo.

(Though it should be

When I was offered the Opportunity to go to Adelaide University to study Two Subjects in the Arts of
My Own Choice, I should have JUMPED at it; but unfortunately, as far as I was concerned, it meant
NOT doing my Second Year of Philosophy, a subject I was absolutely WRAPPED IN. I mentioned My Dilemma in a letter to my Auntie Rosie. She settled it with her: "Whenever Opportunity knocks, TAKE IT!!!" I didn't know then that she had made a decision between marrying her current Sydney Beau and a Man-On-
Jan 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
This book has been described as the first psychological biography. An only child, Gosse is raised in a Protestant sect, The Plymouth Bretheren, which is led by his father, a naturalist and artist. While strict, his parents dote on him, but from early on he questions their beliefs. I loved the scene when he's seven or so, after hearing the prohibition against praying to idols, he secretly puts a chair on a table and prays to it. And nothing happens. His mother, a poet, dies before he is ten. When ...more
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved this memoir, written by the son, who grew up in Devonshire in the latter half of the 19th century. He loved his father, a scientist who was also something of a religious fanatic, a member of the Calvinistic Plymouth Brethren. By the time he was 19, the son was through with religion, but remained on affectionate terms with his narrow-minded dad. He tells their story with honesty and humor.
Sep 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Families, eh. What binds, and what divides. This is a wonderful account of the author as a solitary child, cut off from reality by a strict religion. But what makes it so enthralling for me is the picture he paints of how an intelligent child can for so long squeeze himself into the mould his parents make. It's not at all a stuffy classic, but an absolute must-read. ...more
Dec 19, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
This is probably my favorite book from the Victorian era.
Sep 13, 2015 rated it liked it
I had this book recommended to me by a friend; in fact, she was buying extra copies and giving them away. I can't say it had that effect on me, however.

What an odd book! Gosse was the sun of Philip Henry Gosse, who was a famous zoologist in the 19th century, around the time of Darwin. He was also a Puritan Christian, as was his wife - the mother of Edmund: she died of breast cancer when Edmund was still under ten years old. Philip married again, a few years later.

The book is supposedly the fac
From BBC Radio 4 - Extra Debut:
Memoir of Edmund Gosse's Victorian childhood, raised in a strictly non-conformist Plymouth Brethren home. Stars Derek Jacobi and Roger Allam.

Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

I liked this book even if I am not a big fan of christian fiction.
Stephanie Patterson
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Edmund Gosse's father was a self-taught marine biologist and his mother, a poet and illustrator, but the center of their lives was their fundamentalist faith. They were Plymouth Brethren and were devoted to this fundamentalist Christian sect. Edmund was their only child and this is how he describes their life together: "For over three years after their marriage, neither of my parents left London for a single day, not being able to afford to travel. They received scarcely any visitors, never ate ...more
Jesse Kraai
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 1900s, memoir
*I got turned on to this book when I found it on one of Nick Hornby's list of faves*

The book fails to achieve what it hoped to: to find the seeds of Gosse's later rebellion in his early youth. We spend about two-thirds of the book there, looking. Gosse keeps plodding on, expecting to find the answer himself. But we don't. We also don't get a convincing portrait of the father. How did he come to Botany, what teacher led him to that worldly path, what was the joy he found there? Gosse sr. came fro
Jan 22, 2015 rated it liked it

A non-fiction account of Edmund Gosse's relationship with his father. Everything in Mr. Gosses's upbringing was focused on piety and service to God. As the story unfolds the young Edmund slowly begins to understand that there is more to life that worship, and that his father is not infallible. I found the section dealing with Mr. Gosse's senior addressing Charles Darwin's theories to be particularly interesting, as I have been slowly reading through The Origin of the Species concurrently to this
Jane Verne
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Edmund Gosse's fluent writing tells this story ("Father and Son") of a father who loves his son, but harrasses and abuses his mental independence through the
pursuit of "fundamental" Christianity. The book might have been too
dark and sombre to tackle without the mixture of ordinary life and
ordinary kindness that runs through it. It has been criticised in its
time for exaggeration, even a twisting of the truth about the father,
but it seems to me to be very believable -and it has been rated as
a mast
May 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book was fantastic and it really hit that this occurs still to this day in homes all across the world. Unfortunately religious indoctrination is a powerful force that many don't overcome like Gosse did. When someone does it often tears families apart. I also feel sad for both Gosse and his father, the younger eventually was able to think for himself and escape, the elder however remained stuck in religion even at the expense of his career. A naturalist who could not accept Darwin and Lyell. ...more
Daniel Sevitt
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: auto-biography
Moving and funny account of growing up in a deeply religious household in Victorian England. There is a lot of love here in among the extended prayer sessions, canceling of Christmas, adult baptisms and general denial of anything likely to entertain or give pleasure. The young Gosse writes about his father with deep affection even as he charts his drift away from faith and organized religion. First published over 100 years ago, this felt both timeless and current.
May 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
Sad, yet often very (laugh out loud) funny. A fascinating picture of Victorian Evangelical religion, that makes you ask whether modern forms of Christian believing can lead to similar inter-generational tensions. And a thought-provoking description of how inevitable rebellion against our parent(s) can still walk hand in hand with lifelong love and respect for them.
Mar 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Excellent! This coming of age story under the watchful eye of a strict religious upbringing still holds up today. The author's humor and sensitivity with which he retells his parent's overbearing religious fervor and what it did to a young child's psyche, engrosses the reader. Highly recommended. ...more
Justin Evans
Nov 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
Beautifully written, and a wonderful document about the late nineteenth century clash between 'religion' and 'science.' Also, Gosse goes out of his way to present his father as a decent human being, not something that can be said about the other books in this tradition. ...more
Feby Idrus
Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written in the Victorian manner, and a fascinating double portrait of Gosse and his Puritan scientist father.
Matthew Lawrence
Nov 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
Goodness that was dull.
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Sir Edmund William Gosse CB was an English poet, author and critic, now primarily remembered for his classic memoir, Father and Son (1907), detailing his difficult childhood in a religiously fanatical home.

An important and influential critic in his day, Gosse as a critic, essayist and correspondent is still very much worth reading today.

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